Exhibition Hornsey Town Hall, London, 2010; book, 2012; exhibition Foyles, London, 2012

Runner up best mixed anthology, Saboteur Awards 2013

Still is a site-specific body of work responding to a vacated, dormant public building, combining an artist’s residency, two exhibitions, an author reading event, a video film, a print publication with twenty-six international writers and a short story competition. This project devised at Hornsey Town Hall, helped create local awareness of the untapped community potential of this, at the time, disused site.

In 2010, I was artist-in-residence at Hornsey Town Hall, a Modernist Grade II listed building not in public use since the mid-1980s, recording the silent and still spaces on Kodak medium format film and on video at a time when furniture and archives were being relocated. I was initially drawn to exterior of the building, the architecture reminding me of the Town Hall in Hilversum in the country of my birth, the Netherlands.

The overwhelming silence of the interior spaces evoked a desire to re-energise the building and in the video film ‘Still’, the Town Hall comes alive again as doors slam and drawers open and close, while in the assembly hall The Darkened Valley (1920) by John Ireland is played on the original 1935 out-of-tune piano by musician Helen Kamminga.

An exhibition inside the Town Hall opened on 4 November 2010, celebrating the Town Hall’s 75th anniversary, the site temporarily regaining its intended public function.

I invited twenty-six international writers to select a photograph from the project and use this as inspiration for new writing. The resulting anthology Still: Short Stories Inspired by Photographs of Vacated Spaces (Negative Press London, 2012), combines short stories with the photographs that were the inspiration.

Contributing writers are Richard Beard, Andrew Blackman, SJ Butler, Myriam Frey, SL Grey, Tania Hershman, James Higgerson, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Ava Homa, Aamer Hussein, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Claire Massey, Jan Van Mersbergen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, James Miller, Mark Piggott, Mary Rechner, David Rose, Nicholas Royle, Preeta Samarasan, Jan Woolf, Evie Wyld and Xu Xi.

I established a collaboration with Foyles and the book was launched at the Gallery at Foyles on Charing Cross Road, London, with a reading event and an exhibition in both the Gallery and the café. A Negative Press/Foyles short story competition was won by A.J. Ashworth. The book was also featured in a Tate Modern pop-up bookshop to accompany the William Klein and Daido Moriyama exhibition.

Still was runner-up for Best Mixed Anthology at the Saboteur Indy Lit Awards 2013 and is the first publication of my press Negative Press London, see Nina Killham’s contribution, the story ‘My Wife, the Hyena’ is included in the annual anthology Best British Short Stories 2013 (Salt Publishing, 2013). 

Sara Baume reviewing Still for the Short Review (13 November 2013) writes, ‘This collection is the first print publication by Negative Press London and it sets a high standard for a sort-of new genre. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I just didn’t have the heart to scribble notes or fold the page’s corners down; Still is simply too attractive and unique a book.’

Sunil Chauhan reviewing Still for literary magazine Wasafiri, issue 76 (November 2013) writes, ‘Sharing a tartness of tone, these tales are quizzical, haunting, occasionally abrupt but mostly as teasing as the accompanying images, often concluding with a lingering shot of pain.’

Still: Short Stories Inspired by Photographs of Vacated Spaces, editor Roelof Bakker. ISBN 978-0-9573828-0-0. Paperback with 26 colour photographs, 210mm x 148.5 mm, 190 pp. Negative Press London, 26 September 2012

Still, Standard definition video, 2010, colour, sound, 13:5 min

WORK︎︎︎  NEXT ︎︎︎

Roelof Bakker, all rights reserved, 2024